Daily Iraq Report for March 4, 2007
The Baghdad Security Plan is exhibiting some signs of short term success. There have been no major suicide or car bomb attacks inside Baghdad over the past 24 hours, and only one major attack over the past 3 days. Four IED attacks were reported in different neighborhoods. Two civilians and 1 policeman were killed, and 9 civilians and 2 policemen were wounded. It must be stressed that al-Qaeda has shown a remarkable ability to regenerate and adapt, and the short term progress cannot be translated into long term success. Coalition and Iraqi forces are still setting up positions in Baghdad, and all of the elements will not be deployed until May.
U.S. troops entered Sadr City today, and "conducted house-to-house searches, but met no resistance." The move was announced earlier this week. It appears the Joint Security Station will be set up at the al-Jazair police station, as construction equipment has been moved in. Meanwhile, the Iraq military flew a refurbished UH-1 Huey helicopter on a mission over Baghdad.
Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has announced he will reshuffle the Cabinet posts within two weeks. The move is designed to "speed up reconciliation among Iraq's warring communities," Reuters reports. "We do not need to implement security measures except against those who reject the language of reconciliation and dialogue, those who insist on restoring the past," Maliki said. "We present in our hand a green olive branch, and in the other hand we present the law."
On sthe security front, an unconfirmed report from Deutsche Presse-Agentur indicates Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, the leader of al-Qaeda's political front organization the Islamic State of Iraq, has been captured in the northern city of Duluiya in Salahadin province. Forty-two insurgents were killed and 142 captured over the past 2 days, al-Sabaah reports. Iraqi and Coalition forces killed 3 insurgents and detained 50 during a three day operation in villages near Tikrit in Salahadin province. A Coalition airstrike resulted in freeing 4 hostages who were being held for 50 days. After visiting the scene of the strike, Coalition forces "found remnants of an anti-aircraft heavy machine gun" and other weapons.
As a further sign that activity continues against the Mahdi Army, Special Iraqi Army Forces captured a weapons smuggler who "funnels weapons and improvised explosive devices to rogue Jaysh Al Mahdi elements for use in attacks against Iraqi and Coalition Forces."
Haditha has seen a marked reduction in violence since October, when operations were "largely kinetic." Al-Qaeda in Iraq teamed up with local Ansar al-Sunnah cells, and the security in Haditha deteriorated in 2006. Marines bermed the city, established checkpoints and rebuilt the police force. While many Americans think of Haditha as the scene of a Marine massacre of civilians, the residents of the city don't focus on the issue, according to Stars & Stripes' Steve Mraz. "When Iraqis in Haditha think of a horrible massacre in their city, they think not of the 2005 episode but rather of 2004 public executions of Iraqi policemen by insurgents."
While many of the weapons used by the insurgency are leftovers from the Iran-Iraq war, Iran is still providing deadly weapons such as EFPs (or Explosively Formed Projectiles). The Telegraph reports a British Ministry of Defence inquiry discovered that the Iranian Qods Force agents supplied a Shia militia with the SA-14 Strela anti-aircraft missile which shot down an RAF Lynx helicopter in Basra in May of 2006. The attack killed 5 British soldiers. "The missile was fired either by an Iranian agent or by someone who had been trained by a skilled soldier," suggests the inquiry.